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Music Composers Unite!

Hi all,

I had an interesting visit from my eldest brother yesterday and we got down to talking about my compositions and how they are reproduced electronically. I compose using Sibelius software and enhance the sound with Note Performer - I haven't the time, money or inclination to go down the DAW route and am very happy with the way the sounds are reproduced via my PC (with good quality earphones). I record my pieces as MP3s via the standard facility on Sibelius.

Because he (brother) has what I consider to be a good appreciation of 'Classical' music I send him copies of my pieces in the hope a) that he'll enjoy them and b) be sufficiently excited to contact Victor Hochhauser (or some other impresario) telling them they'd be missing something special if they failed to listen to my compositions.

I sadly discovered yesterday that, specifically with reference to a piano piece, the music sounds dreadful on his computer and, in the past, he's simply been humouring me when telling me 'wow! that's great' or similar. I dragged him kicking and screaming up to my computer to listen to the piece again (It's called 'Norwich Promenade') and he was enraptured (well, that's what he said and I believe him) he said he couldn't believe what talent I have (I still believe him) and that he has misjudged me for years (I still still believe him!).

My point is, whilst I'm merrily enjoying my own stuff played on my own system I have been blissfully unaware of the rotten noises other listeners have been putting up with - what's the solution, can anyone help me out here?

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OK then. Every now and then I download a free DAW to play with it. As with notation software, there is no Quick Start guide. The manuals all go through a long list of what the software will do. There is no section titled "If you are Bob, not too bright, and want to do (what ever simple thing it is that I want), then here's how you do it". Same with YouTube videos. But I get it. If I knew nothing about music, but wanted to compose, I probably would go for a DAW. Notation is daunting. But I know notation. For me, and since I just write for the fun of it, Daw's give me a headache. Now that in no way means I don't take writing seriously. Every note is important to me. If someone listens to something I post and can only lament the sounds I use, then I don't think they are listening to the notes I wrote. I posted a comment that I thought the piano in Stephen's post sounded a bit tinny. That's because he asked for thoughts on the sound. It's a fine piece. The production, in a case like this, seems secondary to me.
The usual line I get is that I should want my music to sound as good as it can. True. But everyone's idea of what sounds good is really different. Everyone listens to music differently. Everyone is looking to get something different out of what they listen to. For example, in the subsequent re-works of Stephen's piece, even though the piano might have sounded better, I felt there was way too much reverb. I myself put his piece through a free notation software with a patch called "upright piano". It sounded better to me. But that's me.
Sure, we all know that the best way to mix is in a DAW with studio monitors. I believe it. There are industry standards. I can't afford those standards. Besides they aren't my standards.

The DAWS I use all have an info view for the controls. I would be more than happy to help if you want it.

Bob I went back and listened to Stephen's Norwich Prominade. I think the piano in it sounds pretty good. The only reason I think all of this came up in the first place was because Stephen was looking for a way for his work to sound a little better.

I don't think the piano piece sounds bad. Yes there are better sounds, however I can't fault what he has here and it's a nice piano composition. If you had made a composition like this or similar and posted it on the review forum I would have given it a high thumbs up. Not necessarily based on the sound but on the composition itself. I have heard much much worse. 

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, I see nothing wrong with a good composer seeking to better his sound. I also see nothing wrong with a person posting something that doesn't use all of that high tech stuff either, so long as it doesn't get in the way so bad I can't discern it. There is a point though where sounds can ruin it IMHO. Especially in the larger compositions using more instruments. Probably goes without saying that I could muck things up pretty badly with a decent sample library too and I probably will at some point. I could run his midi through 10 different pianos and we could all have our opinion on which ones we liked the best, but it will in no way change his wonderful composition. Each piano can be modified in a bunch of different ways, so one listen isn't necessarily going to tell you everything about it either.

I love to get into the technology of these things, so for me It's an adventure. For you it might be a PITA. I understand that.

Music in general has moved  into cyberspace so much so that almost everyone who listens to music listens to it ITB. Even those who hate using the technology still have to post online to be heard. Not trying to tell or insist anyone do anything with that info. Just making a valid point. 

DAWs: for most of them you can find good YouTube intro videos. For Logic, which I use, there are bad videos, and then there are 2 or 3 channels that crank out one excellent video after another. 

Using a DAW has great advantages. For instance, my latest composition was too hard for me to play, so I played it a little slower, and then let Logic speed it up. It's amazing how well that works. Note: I play recorder, so it's the sound file that gets speedup up, of course without change in pitch.

About Pianoteq being light on your computer: well, light on disk space. But it uses more processor power because it's completely synthesized, although even that is fairly modest. I use the "Player" version which is not as customizable, but much more affordable.

Stephen,

See my Foretelling post.

Thanks for the insights Timothy and, incidentally, for the very kind words about my Norwich Promenade. I can't find fault with anything you've written here but it's interesting how personalities differ - you clearly love the tech aspects of producing decent sounds - I have a pal who does nothing but and I know my brother (the cause of all these verbals) is of a like mind. He has, in the past, spent 20 minutes talking about the technicalities of a particular photograph he's taken (he loves photography) and looked surprised when I interrupted him to ask what was the actual subject of the photo....!

Horses for courses I guess. 

Timothy Smith said:

The DAWS I use all have an info view for the controls. I would be more than happy to help if you want it.

Bob I went back and listened to Stephen's Norwich Prominade. I think the piano in it sounds pretty good. The only reason I think all of this came up in the first place was because Stephen was looking for a way for his work to sound a little better.

I don't think the piano piece sounds bad. Yes there are better sounds, however I can't fault what he has here and it's a nice piano composition. If you had made a composition like this or similar and posted it on the review forum I would have given it a high thumbs up. Not necessarily based on the sound but on the composition itself. I have heard much much worse. 

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, I see nothing wrong with a good composer seeking to better his sound. I also see nothing wrong with a person posting something that doesn't use all of that high tech stuff either, so long as it doesn't get in the way so bad I can't discern it. There is a point though where sounds can ruin it IMHO. Especially in the larger compositions using more instruments. Probably goes without saying that I could muck things up pretty badly with a decent sample library too and I probably will at some point. I could run his midi through 10 different pianos and we could all have our opinion on which ones we liked the best, but it will in no way change his wonderful composition. Each piano can be modified in a bunch of different ways, so one listen isn't necessarily going to tell you everything about it either.

I love to get into the technology of these things, so for me It's an adventure. For you it might be a PITA. I understand that.

Music in general has moved  into cyberspace so much so that almost everyone who listens to music listens to it ITB. Even those who hate using the technology still have to post online to be heard. Not trying to tell or insist anyone do anything with that info. Just making a valid point. 

Thanks for this Bob - you will see I have done just that and commented on that thread.

Bob Porter said:

Stephen,

See my Foretelling post.

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